Parental Discipline of Young Children

Authors: Robert W. Block, MD, FAAP


The authors of the article “A Longitudinal Study of Parental Discipline of Young Children” in this issue of the Southern Medical Journalcorrectly point out that the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly endorses parent education about discipline at all well child visits. Discipline is explained in many parent-education texts, including Be Nice … But Firm.1 As the authors discuss, there is importance not only in what type of discipline a parent chooses, but also how they present themselves through demeanor, consistency, feedback, and voice tone and loudness. Although their study reviews reactive discipline–action taken after a child has misbehaved–most pediatricians will agree that proactive discipline–teaching and nurturing to prevent misbehavior—is most important. Items measured in the study include monitoring, verbal communication, and distracting, all common in the population studied when the children were one year old. As the children aged, ignoring, natural consequences, time-out, and corporal punishment became more common. Those of us who focus on child maltreatment will be concerned with increasing negative demeanor and the use of corporal punishment.

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1. Block WM. Be Nice … But Firm. 1992, Indianapolis, Guild Press.*